An Idiot Abroad – Is form temporary and class permanent?

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Our pre-season friendlies kicked off on the 17th of July in Belgium, with a fixture against last season’s 3rd placed team in the Jupiler Pro League, KAA Gent. This opening fixture brought about an experiment of tactics for FC Modena. We played a 33121 formation. Or in my world we played homage to @doublehalfbacks Bielsa’s tactic that he has been developing with Tottenham in his save on #FM18.

DHB's Tactic

The formation/tactic on first viewing was a more simple version of my Libero’s Wide Front Three tactic. The former creates a lovely passing map and gives the team a different dimension compared to the regular 4231 or 4123 formations that are out there. The tactic below was used throughout the “This is England series”.

Liberos WFT

The newly dubbed “Libero’s Twist of DHB’s Libero” tactic (It really flows off the tongue!) started with a bang! A two nil away win to build confidence up and improve the squads fitness levels.

We proceeded throughout the preseason program with the same tactic gaining confidence and winning the following seven matches which included a 3-0 home win against Celtic and an away 3-0 against Heerenveen.

SupaCoppa TIM Final ~ aka the Italian Charity Shield.

Some bright spark had organised this fixture for two Italian teams to play in China, Hohhot City Stadium to be exact. The match was drawn against Fiorentina.

This match saw the introduction of the late arrivals from our last minute splurge in the transfer market. Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho started their first games for the club.

To summarise in two words we lost. We lost 1-0 nil in a match that neither team dominated but I finally got to see the frailty of playing with three at the back or should I say two at the back and a very deep playmaker. We held our own with 58% possession but we failed to do much with the ball. Fiorentina scored in the 37th minute after a moment of direct play.

My heart became deflated, with the immediate assumption that the team were not quite up to the task of handling this tactic.

The New Season in Serie A

The opening round of the 2021/22 season saw us play Udinese in Udine. The match was an awful spectacle. The referee made the game his own by dishing three penalties out.

Udinese received two and we were given one. And as we all know most of the time the AI never misses from 12 yards. Despite this ridiculousness we still managed to dominate possession, only in this game we managed to put a boot to the ball and carved out 18 shots with only 5 hitting the target.d two and we were given one. And as we all know most of the time the AI never misses from 12 yards. Despite this ridiculousness we still managed to dominate possession, only in this game we managed to put a boot to the ball and carved out 18 shots with only 5 hitting the target. This meant once again we lost another match.

Feeling even more deflated I asked Steve for a word of advice. He told me to either try a 4231 formation for the next match or look to spend a fortune and ask “the council”!

I kept my money in my wallet and also thought we should try the DHB tactic once again.

Sampdoria at home, saw the opening 43 minutes be a frustrating affair with the visitors having the better of us. Their momentum saw them score on 44 minutes. This saw me finally see sense and alter the tactics to a 4231. In the space of 4 minutes we had clawed ourselves back to 1-1. Then leading 2-1. We then dominated the second half and eventually won the match 3-1. The turn around was very positive, however, my thoughts around the DHB tactic may need tempering until the team are more familiar of each other. So I thought.

The next match saw us play Roma at the Olimpico. We had gone with the 4231 which had worked so well in the previous 48 minutes. Only this time Roma looked to work like a well oiled machine and picked at our awkwardness. They ran out comfortable winners in the end winning 3-1.

I’ll stop there to punctuated with our opening Champions League fixture. We were drawn in Group G with Olympiakos, Marseille and Barcelona. And we opened our competition by hosting Barcelona at the Stadio Alberto Braglia. A packed house (21,092) got to see the David Vs Goliath duel between us, in only our seventh Champions League fixture. And the might of Barcelona.

We employed a different strategy to our previous competitive fixtures and Steve looked at the notes left by Franco Baresi after the last encounters against Barcelona.

We went with a tactic to counter the attacking prowess of Barcelona without playing a deliberate counter attacking football. The tactic was set to absorb the interplay of the four advanced Barcelona players and then seek to attack with our front three players with our Volante arriving later in the move to add to the attack.

Deep Lion

The open exchanges saw us absorb a lot of play from the Barcelona attacks but with little creativity of our own. Half time came and the rallying team talk hit home to all of the players. That they could go out there and play much better by no longer fearing the quality of the opposition.

Alessio Miceli grew from 5 foot 10 inches to be more like 10 foot in the second half. On the stoke of the 69th minute he intercepted the ball after a series of Barcelona short passes. He dribbled to the half way line and played a wonderful through ball to the inside left channel to Cristiano. Who controlled the ball to his favoured right foot and fired a rocket past Ter Stegen’s top right hand corner of the goal.

The boys then absorbed the Barcelona reaction for the next twenty minutes. Before Miceli replicated what he did before by intercepting the ball once again and found Cristiano with another beautiful through ball. Ronny scored his second past the withered Barcelona.

A minute later Barcelona gave the ball away straight after kicking off. Miceli the man mountain had nicked the ball again. He played a straight ball to the deep positioned Cristiano who drew in two Barcelona defenders. Jadon Sancho broke into space on the left wing, and screamed for the ball. Ronny delivered a punt in the right direction and Sancho delivered a third goal for Modena by sinking a side footed shot into the bottom right corner of the goal.

The stats showed we had upped our effort in the second half to have 52% of possession of the ball for the match. It also showed the important things in life, three goals for us. Against all the odds we won. And with this victory we increased our team spirit, and I believe the team are starting to believe in the tactics we put on the pitch.

This new found belief rubbed off into our next three league fixtures. With a 4-1 home win against Inter. (We played 4231). A hard fought 0-0 against Juventus (We played the 343 deep lion to match there proposed tactic). And a 5-1 home win against Benevento (again playing with a 4231).

You’re now caught up with the game. (Yes I know I am slow, That is why I do not twich! That and the fact I have two young children that only sleep in absolute silence at the moment! I need to soundproof the man cave.)